Can you tell if your webcam was hacked?

Can you tell if your webcam was hacked?
Source: AP
Source: AP

Here's a truly scary thought: a hacker using the webcam on your personal computer to spy on your current activity. In 2016, it's not just the stuff of nightmares, but a potential reality. If the worst were to happen, would you be able to tell if your webcam had been hacked?

If you happen to be in front of your device, it should be pretty easy to identify. Malware may be able to sneakily seize control of the computer's webcam, but it can't prevent it from activating the blinking LED light when in use. If you haven't manually turned on the webcam, that's a good sign that you're currently under attack. 

Reboot your computer and wait a few minutes just to ensure it wasn't a fluke on behalf of the computer. If you see the blinking LED again, you almost certainly have been infected. If not, it could have been a chance accident, but if you spot the LED blinking without your command again in the future, that's a pretty good indicator of malware, as well. 

Of course, if the hacker was smart, they would probably wait until you're not paying attention to the computer or away from the device altogether. This is when identifying a hacker's presence gets tricky. The webcam doesn't keep logs of past use so you'll need to check elsewhere to see if you've been infected. 

Your best bet is to identify what programs are using your webcam. Lifehacker has a very good explainer on how exactly to do this. You can also find clues by checking to see if some of your computer's files have been corrupted.

By this point, you're probably wondering how you can stop someone from surveying you or your home through a webcam? Easy. Put a piece of tape over the camera.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Aric Suber-Jenkins

Aric is a writer covering technology. His work has appeared in Newsweek, Maxim and Brooklyn Magazine. He is based in New York and can be reached at aric@mic.com.

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